Sports Direct modern slavery brothers jailed

image copyrightNottinghamshire Police
image captionErwin and Krystian Markowski have both been sentenced to six years in prison for modern slavery

Two brothers who trafficked 18 people from Poland to the UK and conned and threatened them have been jailed.

Erwin and Krystian Markowski, both from Nottingham, recruited the vulnerable men to work at the Sports Direct warehouse in Shirebrook, Derbyshire.

The pair controlled their victims' bank accounts and kept most of their wages, totalling £35,000, between 2015 and 2016, Nottingham Crown Court heard.

They have both been sentenced to six years in prison for modern slavery.

Erwin, 38, of Cedar Road, and Krystian, 35, of Harcourt Road, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to arrange travel with a view to exploitation and fraud by false representation.

They were given a two-and-a-half year sentence for fraud to run at the same time as the six years.

image copyrightPA
image captionEighteen vulnerable men were recruited in Poland and sent to the Sport Direct's warehouse in Derbyshire

The Markowskis paid for the Polish men to travel to the UK, but when they arrived their passports were taken and they were "totally isolated".

Some victims spoke of being treated "like a piece of rubbish" and said the brothers "destroyed their lives".

One man was promised a flat but received a urine soaked mattress.

The case came to light when one of the victims reported his ordeal to police in January 2016.

During the sentencing, Judge Stephen Coupland, said it was a "planned and systematic" scheme of "human trafficking".

He said: "You employed a spotter in Poland to identify people who were vulnerable. Your intention, by selecting vulnerable people, was to make it easier to control them over here.

"You controlled their ability to contact others by using physical and verbal threats, using actual violence on occasions."

image copyrightPA
image captionThe Markowskis sent the men to work at the Sports Direct warehouse in Shirebrook

The prosecution accepted it was not "forced labour" but said the workers had "very little choice".

Chief crown prosecutor Janine Smith said: "The Markowskis preyed on vulnerable people in Poland and promised them accommodation and a tempting wage in order to lure them to the UK.

"The reality upon arrival was a life of squalid living conditions and near total control by the defendants."

Det Con Sarah Fearn, of Nottinghamshire Police, said: "The Markowski brothers financially benefited from the hard work of others and in return the victims were left feeling used, distressed and manipulated."

In a statement, Sports Direct said it welcomed the conviction and "will not tolerate these kinds of behaviour".

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